The U.S. Department of Justice announced charges against 10 former NFL players, including former Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis for defrauding the league’s health care benefit program Thursday.
Following an investigation by the FBI, the Justice Department filed charges against Robert McCune, John Eubanks, Tamarick Vanover, Ceandris Brown, James Butler, Fredrick Bennett, Correll Buckhalter, and Etric Pruitt in addition to Portis and Rogers and intends to charge Joe Horn and Reche Caldwell, according to a news release.
“Ten former NFL players allegedly committed a brazen, multi-million dollar fraud on a health care plan meant to help their former teammates and other retired players pay legitimate, out-of-pocket medical expenses,” Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski said in a statement. “Today’s indictments underscore that whoever you are, if you loot health care programs to line your own pockets, you will be held accountable by the Department of Justice.”
The players allegedly filed $3.9 million in false and fraudulent claims to the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan, which was established in the 2006 CBA to provide tax-free reimbursement of out-of-pocket medical care expenses which were not covered by insurance and were incurred by former players, their wives and their dependents. According to the charging documents, over $3.9 million false and fraudulent claims were submitted to the plan, which paid out $3.4 million of the claims between June 2017 and December 2018.
Mark Dycio, an attorney for Portis, told The Washington Post the former Redskins running back "had no knowledge that his participation in what he believed to be an NFL sanctioned medical reimbursement program was illegal."
"He is completely taken aback by this indictment and will move forward with the process of clearing his good name and those of his fellow NFL alumni,” Dycio said.
Portis, 38, played nine seasons in the NFL and was with the Redskins from 2004-10.
“The defendants are alleged to have developed and executed a fraudulent scheme to undermine a health care benefit plan established by the NFL – one established to help their former teammates and colleagues pay for legitimate medical expenses,” U.S. Attorney Robert Duncan Jr. said in a statement.
The players allegedly submitted claims for expensive medical equipment, ranging in cost from $40,000 to $50,000 per each claim, that wasn’t purchased or received, the Justice Department said.
Hyperbaric oxygen chambers, cryotherapy machines, ultrasound machines designed for use by a doctor’s office to conduct women’s health examinations and electromagnetic therapy devices designed for use on horses were among the machines mentioned in the claims, an investigation unveiled.
Some of the former players recruited other NFL players to submit false or fraudulent claims and the players received a kickback or bribe for their participation, the Justice Department said.
The accused players fabricated supporting documents like invoices, prescriptions, and letters of medical necessity. Once the claims were submitted, McCune and Buckhalter allegedly called a phone number associated with the plan to monitor the status of the claims, the department said.
“This investigation serves as an illustration of the rampant and deliberate scams against health care plans occurring daily throughout the country,” George L. Piro, the FBI’s Special Agent in Charge, said in a statement.